The Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) most recent committee is a forum which deals with all matters revolving around energy. This includes both the generation of energy by Independent Power Producers (IPPs) as well as the industrial and manufacturing side of this sector. The Energy Forum has established itself as a voice piece for business and the community which will be able to channel its thoughts and intentions through the forum to reach municipalities, government entities (such as Eskom), Provincial and National Government. The forum has presented comments on energy matters such as Fracking in the Karoo and it has the people, the environment and business at the heart of all its efforts.
This forum is not only a lobby group but it also actively seeks to support IPPs in their efforts of gaining access to the list of private entities supplying energy onto the grid. Along with this mandate, the Energy Forum is also involved in the identification of business opportunities within this new sector and these range from manufacturing of components, provision of skills and training as well as assisting in developing knowledge for research and development in the industry. Some of the key projects that the forum are embarking includes the South African Green Schools Initiative (SAGSI) and Renewable Energy Roadshows, with members showcasing the benefits as well as cost-saving energy efficient initiatives.
The Energy Forum works together with a similar forum which has been established in Port Elizabeth and together they support and would like to see the Province taking up the challenge of establishing this new industry to ensure that energy security improves as well as employment opportunity at the same time. The BKCOB Energy Forum will assist the Renewable Energy sector by all means to ensure that the Border-Kei region becomes a meaningful player in this rapidly growing industry.
Chairperson - Chris Ettmayr, East London Industrial Development Zone
The Energy Forum has been established to represent business in the energy sector which has grown in importance with the recent energy problems that have been experienced country-wide. More and more businesses want advice on what to do to literally “keep the lights on” and there are many service providers in the market who are not providing optimal solutions and sound products to meet these needs and expectations. The Energy Forum is not only looking at energy efficiency and generation for local business but also for actual business opportunities. In this respect that Forum is involved with the Provincial Government who are looking to develop a database of SMMEs who could be brought into the renewable energy sector as these types of business have largely gone unnoticed in the large scale solar and wind projects that we see being erected in South Africa.
The Energy Forum is also looking out for the environment as energy has a massive impact on this. The Forum is actively engaged in debate on the Fracking industry which is exploring the Karoo and there is also involvement concerning the oil and gas exploration just off our coastline. We have also been involved in the Clean City Initiative and some of the Forum members were privileged enough to travel to Germany with the assistance of the Lower Saxony Government to see how Germany treats its various waste streams to convert it into alternative products which are sold for profit and during the conversion process steam and electricity is also developed as a sale-able commodity. It is hoped that this technology and project can be brought into the BCMM area to tackle our waste and sanitation issues to truly become a front-runner metropolitan municipality which others can emulate.
Taking renewable energy to the community and to schools is also of great importance as education is key to acceptance of this new sector. Therefore continued support is still provided to the South African Green Schools Initiative which has been handed over to WESSA to run as a project. This initiative is currently being renamed and rebranded as part of the Eco Schools Programme and we expect to see great achievements with this project quite soon. Getting this programme to be supported by the Provincial Departments of Education as well as Public Works is still something that we will be pushing for 2015.
Apart from the waste to energy projects in BCMM we are also involved in supporting the Amahlati Municipality and Stutterheim where waste wood may potentially be converted directly into energy for consumption by a member of the BKCOB. This project which should be piloted in 2015 will provide a precedent for other companies to replicate and decrease their reliance on one energy provider. This energy resource will also come in at a predictable price which bodes well with business needing to keep their overhead costs stable and low.
The Green Desk of the Energy Forum has been selling Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and this has seen some moderate activity. We are however testing with National Treasury to determine if RECs could be utilised to offset or mitigate against the upcoming Carbon Tax and if so, we expect a flurry of activity in this business for the chamber. We have also assisted a local renewable energy producer to register on the ZARECs system and they are now generating RECs which can be sold onto other companies to consume the “green” energy that is produced.
The BKCOB is also moving towards becoming more green and not only talking about the idea but rather implementing and testing this themselves. The chamber took part in the free Energy Audits which are offered by the PSE which are also available for free to interested members, and there were a few areas found where energy efficiency could be achieve at the Chamber. Based on this report there were also renewable energy options for generation which were evaluated and the chamber can now make some informed choices on how to proceed going forward in order to develop into a more carbon neutral business.
So on our radar for 2015 we will still be actively monitoring: Fracking, Oil and Gas exploration and the nuclear studies. We will also push for all our existing projects to continue moving ahead with full steam (hopefully generated by a renewable resource).
What we are hoping for during the year would be: the Solar rooftop roll out, continued solar geyser roll out, the start of the biofuels blending programme, linking the green schools initiative to the Department of Education as well as Public Works, and a move towards local businesses starting to consume, generate and profit from this exciting new sector.